This is for all of my fellow Canadians who are Muslims, especially overseas. And most especially for Muslim parents.
Hatred is morally dangerous.
I am not against hatred in its proper place: I can imagine a judge writing out a “hatred warrant.” Like a warrant for any morally dangerous thing, such as police wiretapping, the hatred warrant would carefully set out limits in time and space. I am not against hatred to help give energy for time-limited task. For example, I see nothing wrong with hating the Germans during World War II and, in the process, calling them Krauts, while referring to your sauerkraut as “liberty cabbage,” while at the same time, in the war factory, chalking Hitler’s name on the bombs.
But to hate harmless unarmed German prisoners penned up here in Canada (space) or to hate any Germans after the war is over (time) is wrong, wrong, wrong. That is not what the hatred warrant is made out for. (My father, overseas during the war, once gave cigarettes, one each, to a couple of German prisoners) With peace the old dark energy is no longer needed. In peacetime there will be new problems requiring new golden energy.
There is a scene I read in a book called North to Abilene about 19th century cowboys on a long cattle drive to the railroad. I found this scene again in an old black-and-white movie about UN fighter pilots in Korea. A young “southern” cowboy who was just a few years too young to have participated in the recent US civil war, or in world war two, is in a saloon, or perhaps he is in a Quonset hut bar with pilots not much older than him. The men include a “northerner,” or a West German. The ignorant youth folds his arms, leans back, and says he won’t drink with a former enemy. The other men, they who have all aged and suffered in the recent war, all unite in persuading him he is wrong. Surely it’s common sense: In peacetime, citizens in both the north and the south must work together to herd cattle, build railroads and make fast progress in creating a new and better country for our children, a country with our children safe from hatred and war. There is no time to waste looking backwards in hatred.
I don’t have all the answers to peace, no one on earth does. God is greater than we are. As an adult, my philosophy to encourage peace is simple: I join old veterans once a year at our Remembrance Day ceremony. We remember with peace in our hearts, with love and gratitude for those we lost… but we don’t remember any old hatreds. And by the way, veterans who had served in the Nazi German air force are welcome to join the Royal Canadian Legion. And they too will attend Remembrance Day.
Why remember hatred? The useful purpose for old hatred is… just what, exactly? Tradition? Because my uncle always said I’m “supposed to?” Or maybe the only “useful” purpose is a childish “because!” I would ask for these questions of hatred to be faced, and be answered, by Muslim Canadians now in universities as part of their typical student “meaning of life” discussions.
My mother never taught hatred. During my teens she always challenged me to think for myself: “If all your young friends jumped off the Empire State building, then would you jump off too?” If you are a young Muslim in university liberating your mind, either overseas or back here, then “just because some other Muslims take hatred for granted” is no excuse for you to blindly agree. One thing you achieve in university, besides experiencing what “culture shock” feels like, is learning that no culture is set in stone. We can change. We have our living God’s permission to live and grow. Of course, if you are my age you have already lived with change. Today I am moved to write this essay because many of my fellow Canadians are Muslims, having dual citizenship, and temporarily living overseas.
Let me say this right away: My understanding of the “Canadian tourists” in Lebanon, all 40,000 of them, (estimated) based on their NONrealistic demands on our government to instantly get them all out after the Israeli invasion, is that they had NOT realistically participated in democracy, not long enough to develop a realistic sense of what our government can do. Therefore I conclude they weren’t tourists: I guess they were prostitutes, without love, “using” Canada. But Canadian Muslims in Syria, (up to 4,700) and perhaps other places too, are different. This is according to External Affairs Minister John Baird. I recall Baird saying Canadians in Syria are over there are simply there because their families are there…
As for any overseas Canadian Muslim mothers and fathers, who might be reading this, I applaud your efforts. Of course you are teaching your children easy factual things, but cultural things need attention too. Don’t forget those uncles!
Obviously, you are teaching your Canadian children easy things such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a charter that serves as the bedrock, the floor of our multi-cultural mosaic. And you are teaching that as members of the United Nations our floor includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We don’t get human rights by coming to Canada: the rights are worldwide. Certain governments, such as the Godless communists, or the Islamist rulers in Iran who put themselves above God and the people, can only deny those rights, not grant them.
Canada was never a heated “melting pot” like the US, intent on having people wanting to be “real Americans.” As I dimly recall from an old Royal Commission report of the 1970’s, we say we don’t mind if a person has another language, (or culture) provided the person also has one of the official languages. (and the bedrock culture) We have the right to apply heat to achieve this. We will sear anyone who defies the charter or breaks criminal laws against private murder for the sake of “honor.” As well, since killing is wrong, we have no death penalty. I have hope that you are already teaching your children that.
While the words of laws on paper are easy to teach to your children, words in the heart are harder. How can you teach that hatred is wrong? I think, to quote the US founding fathers, you could tell your children that God meant us to walk around enjoying “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Unhappily, if you constantly pursue thinking about how you would hate a person, then that is like pouring poison into a cup with the person’s name on it, and then drinking the cup yourself! You are guaranteed to walk around feeling sick. Not happy, not God’s plan. Hatred is like fire: In wartime, a good servant, but in peacetime, a bad master.
In Canada, whenever the Indians start a campfire with tinder, or start to smoke a peace pipe with tobacco, it really helps if the tinder or tobacco has been “prepared” by being slightly burnt already. To start a fire with coal, of course, it helps if there are little embers still glowing. The problem with hatred is that it “prepares tinder.” Hatred is like those coal embers: It’s all too easy for an individual’s lingering hatred to burst into a big flame. And sometimes an entire nation is burned up.
While Canada believes in “multi-culturalism,” some other states believe in “pluralism.” That can work. Pluralism worked well in (part of the former Yugoslavia) Bosnia: the people lived together happily. But they also lived separately, with a belief in hearing words of hatred … And then certain individuals, for their own private gains, started to fan the little embers of hatred. Everyone went to war. And then those certain individuals, those third-rate criminal thugs, became rich and powerful at the expense of the larger community.
I used to think Bosnians had always had their flaming hatred, but no, that was not the truth, not at all. I only found this out from a weary world reporter, Chris Hedges, who was there. He wrote in detail about the peacetime build-up-to-hatred process in War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. He writes, “There was no need for the war in Bosnia. The warring sides invented national myths and histories designed to mask the fact that Croats, Muslims and Serbs are nearly indistinguishable. It was absurd nuances that propelled the war, invented historical wrongs, which, as in the Middle East, stretched back to dubious accounts of ancient history.” (p. 26)
As a soldier, during the cold war, I knew surprisingly little about hatred. We were trained to not to hate but to be aggressive, like athletes. The plan was that only after war broke out would we hate.
A fellow soldier, General Hillier, while over in Bosnia, reports finding school textbooks for innocent children. (p 148) “…and led me back into what had been the school library. He started showing me the textbooks that were still stacked up on the shelves. “I’ve got to show you this one,” he said.
“To this day I wish I’d kept the book he showed me. It said more about the conflicts in the Balkans than anything else I’ve read, heard or seen since. It was an illustrated history book for junior grades, the sort of book that kids under ten would have used in their history classes. It was all about how the tough Bosnian people (the partisans) had beaten the Nazis in the Second World War. It showed the stealthy and bloodthirsty “Huns,” with their distinctive German helmets, attacking the innocent people living in Bosnia. The Huns had fangs, with bright red blood dripping from them, and were pictured bayoneting babies and decapitating old people. According the book, the tough, resilient Bosnian population retreated to the forests and caves and survived despite the terrible times. It then went on to show them attacking the German soldiers and shooting and bayoneting them, with all of it depicted in colour pictures!”
You may recall from history, or the movie Casablanca, that after the French surrendered, the French police and army supported the Germans. Similarly, back in WWII there were partisans, the Chetniks, that supported the Germans in Bosnia. Four years after putting that textbook back on the shelf, Hillier returned to Bosnia. (p149)
“…little tiny girls and boys, about four years old, were all gathered together in a group dressed up in their traditional costumes to greet me. They were all singing a song in their sweet little voices, and I thought it sounded just beautiful. So I asked my interpreter… “It’s a song about when the Chetniks came, they killed my grandfather and my grandmother and now when I grow up I can’t wait to kill them.”
“I said, What?!””
“It was incredible, almost unbelievable to a Canadian what was being played out in front of all of us. The hatred was being promulgated from one generation to the next through their education system. It was a stark lesson in how hatred can perpetuate itself, and it made me appreciate Canada even more.”
I think the makers of those schoolbooks sinned against the children, they sinned against the children’s innocence, and they sinned against God, by teaching hatred. They didn’t know it, but they were “preparing” the kids for one day fighting the Bosnian civil war. Truly, as the Bard wrote, “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” How sad. I am proud that Canadians went in to Bosnia to protect Muslims from the Serbians, while I am sad there never needed to be any war in the first place. Sad.
As teenaged army reservists in the Highlanders we would sometimes repeat angry gossip that the government was against us, for example, we’d make up a fresh rumor that “they” wanted to take away our kilts. As an old man I can laugh at us being silly. I’m not clear on why we said those things, or on why some no-longer-teenage Muslims today say that Islam is under attack.
Of course, your uncle might try to “justify” teaching hatred by claiming that right now it is “wartime” in the Arab world, and in East Africa, and in Indonesia too, and perhaps even among immigrants here in North America, that right now Islam is “everywhere under siege.” (Perhaps he should visit Canada and the US before he says this) I am reminded of an uncle who said being homosexual “is a choice.” From where I stand, both uncles are wrong. My God created me with permission to reason and question.
When some uncle tells me either of those lies I have God’s sacred permission to think, and to ask him three science questions: Who said so? Who’s he? How does he know?
I suppose over in a Muslim nation it’s not easy to raise children without hatred. But you have to try! As you know, Canadian parents, both here and overseas, all want to nurture our children to grow up to be able to “work and love.” In other words, we want them to become fit to get married. When you return to Canada, with your children getting old enough to marry, you will find a certain fact: All the young Canadian Muslims who are looking for a marriage partner… are all looking for some one whose heart is filled not with poison but with peace. The smiling Muslim Mayor here in Calgary (population over 1,000,000) was once a professor; we elected him because he was a loving man loved by his students.
“God bless the beasts and children.”
As summer turns into fall
~A good example of how Canadian Muslims believe in democracy: As you know, an individual down in California, according to an actor being interviewed on TV, lied to the actors about what the title of a short film was. And then, according to an internet observer, he very crudely dubbed over their words, changing their lines. He posted his film to Youtube. When his film got no reaction he posted it again, this time in Arabic. The short film insulting Prophet Mohamed has led Muslims overseas into hatred and violence. But not here.
Here in my city, on Saturday, 200 Muslims gathered, as reported by Damien Wood for the Calgary Sun for September 16: "Cries of "We love peace," "We love Mohammed" and "We must stop the hate" echoed through downtown Saturday"... Instead of believing in violence they hurt no one... in fact, a Sun photograph shows Muslims kneeling in prayer at Calgary City Hall. I am so glad for Canadian democracy.
~ A Soldier First, subtitled Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, by General Rick Hillier, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2009.
~ War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, by Chris Hedges, Anchor Books, 2003.